As a journalist and editor working in the field of menswear, I’ve been fortunate enough to have been introduced to innumerable amounts of brands and makers over the years, both here in the UK and abroad. For me, though, it’s always been the people behind the brand that pique my interest, and help inform my opinions. This is because those human interactions, honest conversations and experiences are incredibly telling, insightful and valuable.
Not long ago I was invited to visit Adam and Charlotte Cameron at their studio-cum-barn in Oxfordshire to discover more about The Workers Club and also put a few pieces to the test. I was already vaguely familiar with the brand but I’d never properly got hands-on with it. So, I hopped on a train and headed to Oxfordshire to find out more.
If you’re reading this, you’re likely to already be accustomed with TWC. If you’re not, well, it was founded in 2015 by Adam and Charlotte, who together have amassed years of experience working in fashion and opposite ends of the spectrum, it’s an interesting and valuable dichotomy. They debuted with ‘The Works’, a three-piece collection, you could say, that compromises of the Shell jacket, which is a multi-functional, dynamic, hard-wearing and dependable piece of outerwear, that caters to the additions of TWC’s Gilet and the reversible Bomber jacket. Since then, they’ve added to the range denim, socks and more lifestyle-lead accessories which are equally as impressive and resolute, but it’s the Shell jacket that’s the undeniable hero.
To hark back to Adam’s and Charlotte’s differences in experience, one common thread that they share is a commitment to making products that are high in quality and using manufacturers and mills that they respect and trust. The mantra of ‘buy less, buy better’ is practically a motto of theirs.
The idea of ‘buy less, buy better’ is manifested in the multi-seasonal Shell jacket, and in turn its complementary Gilet and Bomber, both of which can be attached to the jacket for added warmth and versatility. ‘We wanted it to be the ultimate coat,’ Charlotte tells me, while Adam adds that ‘if we had been based in London, maybe we wouldn't have created what we did due to the climate.’
For the fabric, Adam and Charlotte first sought out the expertise of the venerable mill Olmetex, which is based just outside Como, Italy. That was back in 2015, but ‘If we can use a British mill, we will,’ Charlotte states and so for this season they’ve called upon Dundee-based Halley Stevensons. Founded in 1864, there’s not a lot that Halley Stevensons doesn’t know about waterproof fabrics and it specialises in waxed cotton, although the cotton canvas is equally as revered. ‘It's a compactly woven cotton and the yarn is coated, rather than the fabric. It's so densely woven and they use long-fibre staples, and when the fabric gets wet the yarns expand and it makes a waterproof barrier. However, it's not a waterproof coat, and we don't market is as that, but it's a showerproof coat,’ Adam informs me.
The fact that it’s made from a breathable cotton canvas underlines the multi-seasonal appeal of the Shell jacket as it’s completely wearable during spring and summer. Then, come autumn and winter, you merely zip in the Gilet or reversible green/navy Bomber. The Gilet, which comes in a mossy green and charcoal with contrast corduroy trimmings, is unsurprisingly made from heavy-duty melange wool, which has excellent insulating properties and a warm, cosy handle, and reversible bomber is filled with goose down. As such, both significantly add a warming barrier to the Shell jacket yet both can easily be worn individually. I like the idea of wearing gilet layered over one of their sweatshirts, for an on-duty, sporty look.
Now, while Adam and Charlotte are both experts when it comes to fabric and materials, they’re equally as astute when it comes to design details. In fact they’re obsessed with them and Adam has a seriously impressive vintage archive of military and workwear that serves as an endless source of inspiration.
A lot is going on with the shell jacket however it seems very streamlined. ‘As much as we were over designing it and making it everything we wanted, we needed to make it look really clean and simple,’ says Charlotte, who wears the jacket on an almost daily basis. ‘I wanted the jacket to cover my bum and also have a big peak, that extra bit on the hood makes such a difference,’ Charlotte adds. For extra strength and longevity, they also added reinforced elbow patches as when you're driving and leaning on things, it's one of those first areas of a jacket that can wear out.
Then, there are pockets. If you’re a menswear guy, you’ll know that the more pockets the better, and they can be likened to having loads of gadgets in a car. You might not use all of them, but it’s great knowing you could if you wanted to. On the front there are two, deep patch pockets, while above and at an angle two slanted jet pockets to keep your hands warm and dry. There are also several inside to securely store valuables.
The jacket is unlined (if it were lined it wouldn’t be as effective in terms of breathability in spring and summer) which further underlines its versatility as you can add layers beneath with ease. There’s a drawstring waist, which is another detail I like as fastening it, and therefore creating a cinch at the waist, gives the jacket a nice silhouette. The hood is detachable as it’s not always raining in England – although as I write this and look out of the window that’s hard to believe. I like this touch, though, as removing the hood does smarten the jacket up a bit as the fastening points of it at the neck can be a little distracting if it’s not necessary. The length is spot on, too. I often wear tailored jackets and like to juxtapose them by wearing more casual pieces of outerwear on top. However, in order to do so a long jacket is key to this. Finally, the Riri hardware is particularly telling of TWC’s stance on quality, and it’s one of the first design details that I notice when examining an outerwear garment.
In terms of the colours available, there’s navy and olive, both of which are accustomed to more urban and rural settings respectively, and are sombre enough to be worn with just about anything beneath. You’re not going to see TWC release a shell jacket in neon yellow anytime soon. While that might reflect a growing and insane trend in menswear, that’s not what they’re about.
It was a long and insightful fun day spent in Oxfordshire with Adam and Charlotte, plus Shaun who was furiously snapping away with this camera (and just about deserves a shout out). I learned that TWC is all about wearable clothing that’s made to a standard that it will last you several years. It’s not a brand that’s trying to reinvent the wheel or disrupt the status quo, as countless ones are trying to do that but to no avail. It’s also honest clothing by honest people, who make garments that we can all relate to and would want to wear. I’m struggling to find anything wrong there and they’ve made a fan of me. Lessons should be learned from the duo’s approach to menswear. It’s a model to follow.